Eastern Gulf of Maine Sentinel Survey
The Eastern Gulf of Maine (EGOM) Sentinel Survey began in 2010 with an objective to better understand populations of groundfish that have been locally depleted since the mid 1990’s. The program is a partnership between MCCF, the University of Maine, and The Nature Conservancy of Maine, and has involved dozens of commercial fishermen and various scientific and government organizations. The Survey uses primarily hook gear to sample over 5,000 square miles of coastal shelf from Port Clyde, Maine to Canada. A primary component of the analysis is to develop a relative stock abundance index for cod and other species in the groundfish complex for this part of the Gulf of Maine. In addition, biological samples taken from cod, haddock, pollock, and other groundfish are studied by partners to investigate stock structure, diet, spawning conditions, and environmental factors that might be playing a role in the recovery of a once iconic fishery in eastern Maine.
Each year, graduate students from the University of Maine and MCCF staff accompany almost a dozen fishermen to set baited longlines and jig gear in over 100 locations from June through October. The set locations are determined in part by a Stratified Random Survey design, and in part by participating captains to collect both fisheries dependent and fisheries independent data. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute analyzes muscle tissue samples of cod and pollock for stable isotope signatures indicating diet patterns. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute uses photos of cod for morphometric studies on population structure. The University of Maine examines cod otoliths for age structure information and stomach contents for recent feeding patterns. The University of New Hampshire uses bone samples for genetic stock structure studies. These collaborations have been key to the success of the program, and crucial toward understanding the complexities in the ecosystem.